Reflections
Inspecting Performance Versus Improving Performance
Many leaders claim they are good developers of talent. It’s kind of like the 70 to 80 percent of the population who believe they are above-average drivers. A lot really aren’t.

I find this misperception among leaders in all functions, but it’s particularly prevalent in sales organizations. In a study I conducted a few years back, leaders at all levels rated themselves high on both coaching ability and frequency of their coaching. It was fascinating to see that direct reports at all levels rated their leaders quite low (%) on both ability and frequency of coaching. When I dug in further, I discovered the reason for this massive disparity. It had everything to do with how coaching was defined.

Direct reports on the front lines or anywhere in management do not experience these things as coaching:

  • Reviewing every line of their forecast and getting updates on the details.
  • Inquiring (often repeatedly) why the numbers aren’t higher or insisting that they increase them.
  • Requesting information to share with the next level up.
  • Asking "How can I help you?"

These can be useful management activities – to a degree. When this is the only interaction a sales person, manager, director, or VP has with the boss, it feels an inspection of the results, not coaching.

Done well, coaching drives improved performance. Not just better bottom line results, but the development of talent and capability on your team that ultimately produces results, as I wrote in this HBR article .

Coaches in every sport use data as the underpinning of their game plan, but simply reviewing data isn’t enough. Great coaches develop strategies, help their players improve specific behaviors or approaches, and focus on getting the best performance out of their team.

Whether you are a senior leader training your managers to coach the front lines, or a manager working to develop the skills of your sellers, true coaching is not about scrutinizing outcomes or demanding better results. It’s working together on improvements in performance that will drive growth.
Last month I spoke at a new product launch for ThyssenKrupp elevator. If you are launching or will be launching new services, products, or bundled offerings at some point, you may find value in this article titled Why Your Product Launch Is Likely To Fail (And How To Prevent It) I wrote for Salesforce.com.
A Slice of Life Balance
When we say, “I’m stressed” what we really mean is “I’m afraid”. The latter is not as cool to say, but it’s where stress comes from – fear. We fear a negative outcome, or looking bad, or perhaps we fear failure. So when you feel stress over work, ask yourself “What am I afraid will/won’t happen?” It’s harder than it sounds, and you may have to dig deep for the answers. But evaluating and acknowledging your fears can help disarm some of the negative impacts of stress. Frequently, whatever it is that we fear will happen is worse in our minds than in reality.
“I look forward to Scott’s newsletter every month. When I was the commander of a 1400-person battalion in Korea, his words were always right what I needed at the moment. They are as applicable as ever today.”

Aimee DeJarnette
Colonel, U.S. Army